[Edit: Warning – Spoilers abound]
If ever there was a film that maximized sensation without devolving into spectacle, Beasts of the Southern Wild was it. Barely. It rides the line between poverty porn and social critique, but somehow never manages to lose balance and fall on one side or the other. It takes children seriously. Quvenzhane Wallis, the girl who plays Hushpuppy, deserves every one of the accolades she has received. She made this movie. Give that child an Oscar TODAY.
Beasts is effervescent with feeling. Hushpuppy, Wink, and the people of the Bathtub feel everything and the film’s execution of that pleasure is surreal. Their world is carnal and crimson. Dirt, sweat, rain, sun, shelled shrimp, alcohol–everything is tactile. One of the first scenes with the entire community is filled with sparklers, simulating the magic of fête and festival. Miss Bathsheba teaches social studies using a tattoo of an Auroch on her thigh, a moment so viscreal for Hush Puppy that the beasts become symbolic of the chaos of the storm and her father’s impending death. Even the crawfish are wet and lush, mouth watering.